From 2012 to 2013 STFC conducted a review of the programme of activities that it supports, including both national and international facilities, and its findings were published recently as the ‘2013 Programmatic Review’ (http://www.stfc.ac.uk/review)
Diamond Light Source - supported and owned jointly by STFC (86%) and the Wellcome Trust (14%) – is pleased to see that the Review recommends maintaining the operation and development of Diamond (referred to in the report as DLS), and points to the need to develop the facility beyond the current phase III upgrades to ensure that it continues to provide the very best opportunities for the large and diverse community of scientists and industries it serves.
This is a strong endorsement of Diamond’s technical excellence, which enabled the facility to achieve 98.3% accelerator uptime in 2012/13, and the quality of the science we have delivered since becoming operational 7 years ago. However, the data for Diamond on which the Review was based was taken at a time when its capacity and capability was rising very steeply, and this will continue until at least the end of the current upgrade programme. Diamond now operates 24 beamlines (20 when surveyed for the Review), and this figure will rise to 33 by 2018. We already have 2500 unique users who together visit us or access us remotely 6,300 times per annum, as well as 70 companies who pay to use our facilities for proprietary research. The quality and quantity of the science we deliver will also continue to rise throughout this period, and the cost per paper will naturally be much less, approaching a level comparable to that of the ESRF, which has been operational since 1994.
Diamond is also pleased that the programmatic review has endorsed a coherent strategy for the community of scientists who use synchrotrons, developing complementary facilities at a world leading national source – Diamond - and the world’s leading international source, the ESRF.
One of several areas in which Diamond is already world-leading is macromolecular crystallography (MX). This reflects the strength of the UK MX community – both academic and industrial - which is arguably the most active in Europe. Access to 3rd generation synchrotrons such as Diamond and the ESRF is essential to provide the highest quality diffraction data to solve challenging structural biology problems such as the solution of very large macromolecular complexes. Diamond has worked with this community through phase I, II and III to develop a suite of beamlines to meet their particular needs as well as push forward new developments – unique and innovative beamlines combined with advanced methods for high throughout sample handling and data analysis – that will ensure that Diamond meets the projected demands of the community beyond Phase III.
For example, the tuneable and variable microfocus beamline I24 was the first of its type worldwide and has enabled significant advances in for example the challenging domain of membrane protein structure. A recent example comes from Heptares Therapeutics, a leading UK-based structure based drug discovery company. They were able to exploit the capabilities of I24 to collect data to higher quality and resolution than could have been obtained on a conventional beamline to obtain the structure of the CRF1 receptor which mediates the response to stress and is a potential drug target to combat depression . In the near future we will bring on line the VMX beamline for submicron and in situ samples, as well as the long wavelength beamline I23, both of which will provide capabilities not available elsewhere.
 Structure of class B GPCR corticotropin-releasing factor receptor 1. Hollenstein K1, Kean J, Bortolato A, Cheng RK, Doré AS, Jazayeri A, Cooke RM, Weir M, Marshall FH.
Nature. 2013 Jul 25;499(7459):438-43. doi: 10.1038/nature12357. Epub 2013 Jul 17.